Shifting the power – climate justice means gender justice full transcript
Host [00:00:01] You are listening to Make Change Happen, the podcast from the International Institute for Environment and Development. With the UN taking 'Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow' as its theme for this year’s International Women’s Day, in this episode our guests discuss whether a climate justice framing to mitigation and adaptation responses can provide a suitable vehicle for onboarding concerns around gender equality and intersectionality.
Liz Carlile [00:00:30] Hello and welcome once again to Make Change Happen. I’m your host, Liz Carlile. And I just wanted to say our number of listens suggests that people are enjoying these regular discussions that we’re having. So I’m hoping today will be no exception.
So today’s conversation is in response to International Women’s Day. And the UN theme for the day was 'Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow'. This is a theme close to our hearts in IIED and over the last month we’ve been exploring a number of ideas, and I hope you’ve managed to see those on www.iied.org. Please do check out our blogs and other related information. But back to today. With me are three guests and I will ask them to introduce themselves in just a moment. And we’re going to talk about gender, intersectionality and climate justice. And it’s that climate justice focus that we’re really going to explore. So I hope, like me, you’ll enjoy the discussion. So without further ado, can I ask my guests to introduce themselves. And Heather, perhaps we could start with you?
Heather McGray [00:01:47] Thank you, Liz. My name is Heather McGray and I am the director of the Climate Justice Resilience Fund, or CJRF. We are a grant-making initiative that pools funding from several different philanthropies and makes grants to support women and young people and Indigenous People in building and scaling solutions for resilience.
Liz Carlile [00:02:10] Great. Thank you. Vitu?
Vitumbiko Chinoko [00:02:13] Thank you, Liz and colleagues for having me. My name is Vitumbiko Chinoko. I’m the project manager of the Open Forum on Agriculture and Technology, AATF, based in Nairobi. My other engagements are on climate change diplomacy at international level but also at Africa processes. So I’m really glad to be here.
Liz Carlile [00:02:34] And welcome. Really nice to have you with us. Tracy?
Tracy Kajumba [00:02:38] Thank you, Liz. My name is Tracy Kajumba, I’m a principal researcher in the climate change group at IIED. I’m also the institutional lead for intersectional disadvantage and inequality. Good to be here.
Liz Carlile [00:02:51] Great to have you with us, Tracy. So I think let’s start at the beginning, thinking about our listeners. What do we mean by climate justice? Which one of you would like to take the plunge and talk about that for us?
Heather McGray [00:03:06] I can get us started, Liz. Here at the Climate Justice Resilience Fund we really have three dimensions of climate justice that we think about. The first is to recognise that climate justice means climate action approaches that centre people, that centre people’s rights, their lived experience and their own priorities. And this is in contrast to a lot of climate action that has centred science or counting greenhouse gas emissions or polar bears. The second dimension building on that is really that we lift up marginalised groups. So this includes women, it includes young people, it includes ethnic minorities and poor people. People who historically have faced a lot of injustices and their experience of climate change is mediated by those injustices. This is, I think, something we’ll get into later as we talk about intersectionality. Then the third thing that we really focus on for climate justice is that we aim for systemic change, recognising historical injustice isn’t just about technical interventions or, or helping individuals in particular ways. There’s bigger picture systems at work and we need bigger picture change in order to really make progress on climate change.
Liz Carlile [00:04:27] That’s great. Thank you for that. So I think there’s some big issues, aren’t there? But, you know, let’s explore. So, Tracy, I think something around intersectionality would be good to explain. You know, I think for people just really understanding that and its relation to climate justice would be helpful.
Tracy Kajumba [00:04:47] Indeed, it’s important because climate change affects different groups differently. And the concept of climate justice emerged to frame global warming as an ethical and political issue. It is ethical because the causes and effects of climate change relate to historical injustices. And it’s political because it has to do with rights, governance and decision-making.
And we all know that rights are claimed and contested, so it’s indeed political. So in terms of intersectionality, then, it requires addressing the dynamics of oppression, privilege and the ‘ -isms’, recognising that society is the product of historically rooted systems of oppression. Socially constructed on race, class, gender, intergenerational justice and others. And that critical issue of the youth, we have seen youth on the streets demonstrating Fridays for Futures. So intersectional justice is a big issue in terms of past and contemporary lifestyles, consumption patterns and the causes of the high emissions which are going to affect the young generation. And they’ll have to bear the cost. So climate justice therefore requires preserving the rights of the most vulnerable and sharing the burdens and benefits of climate change fairly and equitably.
Liz Carlile [00:06:06] Thank you, Tracy. As I think we can see the complexity of the different layers involved. Vitu, what does climate justice mean for you and the communities or people you work with?
Vitumbiko Chinoko [00:06:21] Yeah. So I think from the background of where I’m coming from being the global south, I would look at climate justice to pick on the second point that Tracy and Heather talked about – our focus on the marginalised communities. Look at this – if the same climate injustice disaster hits the United States of America, United States of America would be able to come back on its knees within very few days. If the same amount of disaster hits my small town in Malawi, Malawi would have to call for international support to be able to come back on its knees. And what does that mean? It really means that climate justice as an economic angle in the sense that those communities, those countries that have economic muscle are able to respond better and faster, because they have an economic background. And the reason why I’m bringing this one up is that most of the developed economies that precede today that have muscle – economic or otherwise – to be able to respond quickly on the issues of climate change when they are affected, it’s because they’ve developed this capacity on the grounds or upon the account of the emissions that we’re talking about.
So most of the economies of the global North have actually been developed on account of emissions. The same emissions that are causing problems in the global South. So the manner in which the global South is actually affected disproportionately compared to the global North in terms of the impacts, in terms of the ability or inability to respond to the impacts of climate change, for me as somebody coming from global South who has actually lived and experienced the impacts of climate change, this clearly embodies what climate justice is all about. So it’s really about putting out the problem there and saying, “who has caused the problem? And how can we address the problem that has been caused?” And in this case we are looking at responsibility, we are looking at accountability. But we’re also looking at – even in terms of the future, we’re not just looking at today – so indeed connecting how to ensure that these communities are able to assure their people that this country that you are in is actually going to be there tomorrow.
Liz Carlile [00:08:34] Thank you, Vitu. I think we can see there so clearly that this injustice runs deep. Thank you for that. So, Tracy, I know that you see this as highly relevant to the issue, sort of equality, you know, this question of climate finance and women’s economic empowerment. So it’s not just the national challenges that people have around the access to money, it’s actually in terms of gender equality a key issue. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Tracy Kajumba [00:09:02] There’s a lot of work on climate finance, there’s a lot of discussion and there isn’t COP finance for loss and damage and others were really big issues. And we know that money and power go hand-in-hand, so this is not different for climate finance. It is power between the developed and developing countries, governments and citizens, civil society and with groups that are marginalised, including women. So that gender responsiveness of climate finance in terms of policies and implementation is important, but there is a mismatch. So there has been efforts to involve gender policies by climate funds, that implementation most of the time is not aligned with what those policies stipulate.
Evaluations done on global funds have found that projects mentioned gender to access funding because it’s a requirement in the proposals. But when the activities are assessed then the inclusion of meaningful and transformative gender approaches in the projects are really lacking. And at country level there’s really limited projects and limited engagements including gender equality and inclusion into the projects. IIED conducted a study on adaptation funds going to the LDCs. It was found that less than 3% of the required LDC primary adaptation finance intends to support gender equality, despite the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and girls. And then the other challenge I see is the parallel efforts at international and national level.
We’ve been doing some work on the inclusive budgeting for climate change adaptation in Africa, focusing on a number of African countries. But some of the lessons we’ve learned is that public finance management systems need to integrate gender and climate. But then there’s a challenge whereby you have finance people who are doing this work, they don’t have all the skills required because you’re doing double mainstreaming of gender and climate. So how do you then bring it together? That requires cognition, it requires a whole of government approach to be able to address these issues together and make sure that the budgeting, the planning, the implementation is looking at how gender equality can be integrated into national efforts. And then at global level, there are different ways of tracking.
For example, OECD tracks using the Rio markers for climate, and the gender markers for gender. And these two are not even speaking together. So it becomes really difficult to bring the two together. And that’s where the challenges are. But we also learn through IIED climate finance work that decentralised climate finance, the centralism of climate funds work that has been done in a number of African countries, that if you make gender inclusion part of the programme, and make sure that different groups are engaging and participating and making decisions on investments, there are benefits that come with that. We learnt when we did the gender analysis that women were attesting to being able to access public investments that are relevant for their climate challenges, including water sources being near them, investing in small economic activities. But most of all, even then decision-making power on local platforms which they didn’t have earlier. So there are good examples that if you do this intentionally, it will work, it will make a difference, it will be transformative.
Liz Carlile [00:12:37] So thank you, Tracy. I think, Vitu, you’ll have something to say about this. What about all these issues around climate finance for adaptation and mitigation? How do they apply, you know, in a practical sense to what are urgent issues for men and women experiencing the effects of climate loss and damage on the ground? What’s the real effect here for – let’s say – a woman in the community you work with?
Vitumbiko Chinoko [00:13:02] Yeah. So one of the things that we are experiencing on everyday basis is the fact that the resources to adaptation is actually dwindling, and that has an effect on the women on the ground because women are the ones that depend most on natural resources based livelihoods.
So they are always working in the fields, they are the ones depending on, on how the climate is so that they can go and farm and provide for their families, take care of the babies. So the extent which we are actually at international level providing for climate finance actually affects our women. And one of the biggest climate funds is the Green Climate Fund. And five years ago they came up with a decision to divide 50/50 between adaptation and mitigation. And that has not been effective because at that time, at the time of the resolution they are saying that they’re going to make initiatives or efforts to ensure that we strive for 50/50. What that means is that currently most resources are going into mitigation. And we’re not saying that mitigation is not important, but it is actually surprising all the abundant evidence of how people are affected on the ground, we have the whole Green Climate Fund that cannot quickly just move in and make it 50/50. It just shows where the imbalance or the injustice actually is in terms of our investment or climate investment in women, because this is the 50% that is going to go into the lives of women.
I would want to mention that I think beyond climate just affecting food insecurity of most women and their households, we’ve also seen that women are actually forced to make very life-threatening decisions when things are very difficult for them on the ground, when they cannot feed their children, when they cannot take care of themselves. We’ve actually seen, for example, with the El Niño in Mozambique, where most women ended up at illegal and irregular sex work, infecting themselves with HIV and also their families and all that because their husband had to go to town to fend for, for their families but they never came back. And so we see really that this climate finance is... there’s a way in which we should be able to structure it at global level, be it at UNFCCC or even at African Union when we are developing funds and also strategies, in a manner that is able to respond to the specific needs of women who are disproportionately affected by climate.
Liz Carlile [00:15:35] Thanks, Vitu. Is there any example of where this has been done?
Vitumbiko Chinoko [00:15:41] I think we’ve seen one of them, for example, in response to loss and damage. We’ve seen different governments signing into sovereign insurance, a great initiative. But the manner in which, for example, some of the aspects of this insurance are actually implemented on the ground leaves a lot to be desired in as far as integrating women into these funds is concerned. And I think the issue of insurance in response to loss and damage is one of the things that we need to be looking at. I think most women cannot just respond to the normal insurance. I think they will need social protection and even that needs to be structured in a very gender-assistive manner.
Liz Carlile [00:16:21] Thank you, Vitu. I suppose what we’re seeing is that, you know, mechanisms or channels or flows of investment that speak to success in certain situations are very much not doing that for women. And that they do get left out. You know, I liked your point about social protection for the ultra-poor just, you know, they don’t get the access that they need. So I think maybe that takes us to Heather. I know that you’ve got lots of experience and perspective on the kind of the capabilities of institutions, and how they can or can’t perhaps integrate gender in their work.
Heather McGray [00:17:00] Yeah. The current example that Vitu just raised is, is something we see really often. Where institutions – whether it’s at the national level or an international funder like CJRF there – they’re not sufficiently capacitated to tailor solutions sets to the specifics of the on-the-ground context. And the specific of women’s experience, I can give you an example from my own fund. When we were just getting up and running as a fund, we had an application from a wonderful organisation in Bangladesh called Coast Trust. And they put forward this really multi-faceted proposal to us that had various components to it. Some of them were really technical around climate-smart agriculture and adapting water and sanitation. And others were advocacy-oriented around building a coalition. But there were some pieces there that I didn’t... I couldn’t make sense of.
There was work around education for boys who were outside of the public education system. And there was a club, a radio club for teenage girls, which, you know, I was, like, well this is a climate fund. I understand the economic empowerment pieces, I understand the adaptation pieces. Why do we have these education and girls’ clubs components? And their, their executive director worked really hard with me to, to understand this proposal. He said, “You know, Heather, the teenage girls are the most vulnerable people in our context. And these radio clubs, it’s not just about radio, it’s about girls having a place to build their capabilities.” You know, in this case the girls, they’re listening to the radio and talking about it. They’re also working at a community radio station and developing programming. And becoming a resource for their community in new ways. And sharing their perspective as girls, getting to learn about their community, getting to engage in ways that are really important and protective.
Because under a changing climate, you know, the specifics of a young woman’s experience can be really extreme. All of these components of this Coast proposal that I shared with you, I learned eventually were centring these girls and protecting them from the circumstances where if there’s a climate emergency, their families are much more likely to feel a need to have their daughters get married. And child marriage, there’s all kinds of evidence out there of how damaging it is, not only for the girls but for their families and the long-term development of their communities. And this was an example of how the institution I worked for [laughs] was not really able to see the nuances of this, and respond to it until there had been quite a lot of exchange and listening to this applicant. And honestly it kind of had a bit of advocacy from their side towards us to make sure that we understood what was really happening on the ground for the girls that they worked with.
Liz Carlile [00:20:27] Isn’t that so interesting? Because what it shows you is just what we were talking about around intersectionality – the complexity and the nuance of people who experience, you know, a lack of power or discrimination at different places in their life. Be it education, be it financial empowerment, be it gender. So that’s a really nice example. Thank you for that. I mean, Vitu, does that resonate with you, that example? Do you have similar experiences?
Vitumbiko Chinoko [00:20:56] Yeah. So there’s a lot of other examples similar to what my colleague has just narrated. But I also want to bring on board issues around how this climate crisis, for example, disproportionately impacts girls and women more than boys and men. So when you look at, for example, the issue of school drop-outs: in cases of climate emergencies, sometimes culturally, however we might want to look at it but whatever you find that girls tend to drop out of school because either the road has been cut off because of flooding, and therefore we can actually see that climate is also contributing to low education attainment of girls.
The other issue that I also want to bring on board is the fact that I think sometimes when you have a system that is not addressing the needs of the greatest part of your population, I think we need to just look at the challenge in the eye and call it injustice. And my call is that I think while we need to recognise the advantage point that men have and really make it a point that we need to reach out, make sure that we’re very deliberate to reach out to women and bring them into decision making processes. I would also want to mention that maybe some of the sustainability issues around climate change, be that adaptation or mitigation, maybe it is indeed coming in because we’ve left out the biggest part of our population. We’ve not listened to them. We’ve not been able to know exactly what are they needs. So that when we’re designing adaptation, how exactly should we design these adaptation projects so that we address the needs of these women, the needs of these girls.
Because sometimes we’ve gone out there to do a big climate adaptation work, and then we’ve actually noted that it doesn’t give us an impact. And actually thinking that maybe it’s time to reflect on some of the initiatives that very small organisations with very little money have done. But because they’ve taken time to listen to what people are actually looking for, they’ve actually made an impact. So I’m looking at the example from CARE, who is actually my former employer. Through their village savings and loans who have made tremendous impact in terms of improving food security, improving the whole community of resilience through very little investment around village savings and loans. And leaves me with the question – what if these kind of initiatives were taken up by the government. What if these initiatives were actually supported by big funds like the Green Climate Fund, these would actually give a lot of positive outcomes than maybe some of the more sophisticated funds that have been deployed out there. So it’s really takes about listening to the people that are most affected – and in this case women and girls – and designing projects that would address their needs and lift them up to where they need to be.
Liz Carlile [00:24:02] Thank you for that, Vitu. I think you’re leading us into where I understand there’s kind of talk around now which is sort of this just transition. How do we get these, these approaches that could really change all the previous injustices? And we, we know that’s a difficult thing to strive for but you’ve outlined a few key things there. I mean Heather, what’s your principled just transition that you would like to see? Or what are the things that you’re all thinking about in terms of this just transition to a better way of doing things?
Heather McGray [00:24:38] Well, you know, this concept of just transition is really interesting and I think it’s evolving quite rapidly right now. The concept of a just transition came from the global North and really initially referred specifically to the working-class jobs in the fossil fuel industry and other extractive industries that are going to go away and not be available as jobs as we transition to low carbon forms of energy. As the concept of just transition has moved into the global South and as we’ve seen it expand and evolve, we’re starting to talk about a lot of other transitions as well, not just this transition of employment from extractive industries to more renewable energy sources. It’s also come to look at issues of climate-resilient agriculture and how the agricultural sector needs to evolve. And that, of course, affects many people’s livelihoods, including women, including young people, so much of the world where a smallholder agriculture is a core livelihood.
There’s some big changes happening there that need to happen as we confront climate change. Also, we’re seeing some real nuance as we think about the energy transition and how it affects different people. For one, access to energy is such an issue in the global South in many parts of the world and this lack of access in many places is a huge part of doing justice as we transition energy sources from high carbon to low carbon. We also are seeing the need to look at the downside of that energy transition, not only in terms of jobs but in terms of the impact on communities and on land. There’s cases – many of them unfortunately – where wind energy or solar energy at a large scale is really quite damaging to the land, to the communities rights and land rights. And there’s similar issues around free prior and informed consent, for example, as there are with extractive industries. And it’s really important as we make this transition that we, we don’t repeat the errors of the very damaging industries that polluted - and stole in many cases - the lands of communities in the global South. And bringing this intersectional lens to those transitions, I think, is really important. So that we can have a holistic approach and not a, you know, a project sector by sector shift in how we get our energy and how we get our food. And how our societies are structured as we move from this very extractive, colonial phase of history into something real.
Liz Carlile [00:27:39] Thank you, Heather. And I think, Tracy, you know, as you are intersectional lead and I know you’ll have a view – what resonates here for you, or what would you like to add?
Tracy Kajumba [00:27:50] I completely agree with Heather and she raises very important points on differences between what just transition means for the global North and the global South. So just transition aims to achieve a fair and sustainable shift to a low carbon economy. And we all know that LDC’s emissions are very many more, though they suffer the greatest impacts. So the question is – and the question that people are asking about the global South is – what are transitioning from? I think that’s a question that we need to answer.
Each country needs to develop its own definition to respond to the needs of their citizens and their economies. If we take it from the global scale wholesome just transition, I think that it’s a problem. And from a gender perspective, my concern is that we are already dealing with increasing inequality for women and other disadvantaged groups. But when you look at women, they are lives are in the informal sectors. They are engaged in care roles that cannot be organised or valued. And the ILO estimates that globally women earn 77% of what men earn. And in the current trends it will take 70 years to close the gender wage gap. And there are other challenges of course that come with climate impacts – issues of season and post-migration.
The feminisation of agricultural labour, which is actually goes for the women and children. IIED recently published a report on modern slavery pushed by climate impacts and migration. So all those challenges compound to really raise questions of how do we make a just transition gender response. And also looking at other categories within the framework. And, and this builds on already problematic issues of equality. Especially for women. When you look at women entrepreneurs, they are disproportionately represented in businesses and enterprises. They have less access to credit and loans. And they’re all, most of them actually, are in the small economic sector. To be honest, without gender inclusion, there can’t be any just transition because it will still continue with a cycle of exclusion and disadvantage based on the challenges that women and other groups face.
Liz Carlile [00:30:10] So, we’ve come to that time in the programme, believe it or not our time is nearly up. And I always ask my guests to give me something about change. The change they want to see. This is our Make Change Happen podcast, and we like to finish with what’s the one thing you’d like to see happen to achieve climate justice for all people? Or even a just transition. You can choose. Heather, can I start with you?
Heather McGray [00:30:37] Sure. Thank you, Liz. This is hard to pick of course, how to, how to choose just one change that we need in such a nuanced and, and integrated set of challenges. But I think I would, as a funder, like to focus on what funders can and should do differently. And there is a real need to shift away from highly siloed modes of delivering funding toward much more holistic and systems-oriented changes. And one straightforward way to do this is really to have new voices driving funding based on lived experience. Women and girls on the ground, they don’t think in terms of how the agricultural challenge and the water challenge and, you know, income challenge. These things are all part of their day-to-day lives and bringing them together and bringing the voices of people who experience all these silos as one thing I think can really be transformative for funding. Of course, this is a big shift. Shifting who decides and how decisions get made about funding, bringing women’s voices to the fore and making certain they have the power to decide where money goes and how it gets deployed. So that we can get passed some of these harmful silos that, that really don’t do justice to lived experience and real needs. And this is a big shift in power and something we’re exploring at the Climate Justice Resilience Fund and are hoping to help move forward not only for ourselves but for other funders.
Liz Carlile [00:32:14] Thank you, Heather. This sounds like really exciting work. And I know that, you know, any shift in power in the right direction is very much at the heart of our thinking. Tracy, what would be your one big change?
Tracy Kajumba [00:32:30] If I may be allowed to dream really, say the kind of things that I want to see is addressing inequality and decolonising approaches to development. And it’s not just about women or individual groups, it’s a global challenge of how power is shared, how partnerships between global North and global South are maintained, and if there’s willingness to really and genuinely share power and resources. And letting the local people lead. That would the kind of change I would want to see. We recognise that we are process facilitators, and let the local people have the voice at LDC governments, the communities, the women, and we’re able to share that power. And investing in things that really matter for different regions, different economies, different people. Then taking finished agendas to work around or follow. So for me, that’s the change that I would want to see. Thank you very much.
Liz Carlile [00:33:33] And finally, Vitu. Last but by definitely no means least. What change would you like to see? Or do you think should happen, that would sort of unlock the biggest challenges here?
Vitumbiko Chinoko [00:33:46] Yes. So what I’ve noted really is that we’ve seen this pronouncement on commitments to gender or to climate justice at the highest level. But even at lower levels like national governments, the only challenge I’ve noted is by and large these pronouncements are not backed up by resources. So whatever is agreed at international level, whether you see it at UNFCCC that you’re going to do gender, as good as it may sound but if it’s not backed by resources that are going to drive that agenda on the ground, that is not going to happen. So my call really is that I think all of us do believe that gender is important, climate justice is important but can we now add another layer to it by really backing up those pronouncements with financial resources, by technology but also capacity to be able to implement these pronouncements on the ground.
Obviously we think we also need partnerships at national level because – like my colleague has said – it’s really about systemic implementation. Now if you’re looking at systemic implementation then that means one organisation cannot do it. I think one organisation who will be realise their limitations but through partnerships, then they can actually cover up their limitations by bringing in other organisations that can help to engage or empower that woman, that girl who is affected on the ground. So partnerships and more resources to implementing climate justice on the ground – those would be my two calls. Thank you.
Liz Carlile [00:35:18] That’s brilliant. Thank you, Vitu. And I think we can hear amongst us a lot of consensus. So I’d like to wrap up now and I’d like to – if I may, Vitu – repeat some words you said earlier, which is that we all need to look at the challenge in the eye and call it injustice. I really liked your framing there and I think through this episode today we’ve really understood where some of those injustices are and what we need to do about it. So I think I’d just like to say thank you to my guests – Heather McGray, Tracy Kajumba and Vitumbiko Chinoko. And to thank you for a terrific conversation and wish you luck with the changes you’d like to see and drive forward. To my listeners, thank you very much. Please do share this with any other colleagues or friends that you think may be interested. And we look forward to talking again next time.
Host [00:36:16] And you can find out more about today’s podcast, our guests and their work at www.iied.org/podcast where you can also listen to more episodes. You can leave us feedback or follow the podcast at soundcloud.com/theiied. The podcast is produced and recorded by our in-house communication team. For more information about IIED and our work, please visit us online at www.iied.org.
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